Tea Services

It is a sad fact, even in our retro loving world and even though a slight increase is perceptible, that a large percentage of tea services from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have limited value. The service which upsets many with its lack of value is the one with gilded outlines which is inscribed “genuine 22ct gold”. Sadly this cannot be scraped off and “weighed in” for scrap to give the service at least some value.

The gold used to decorate ceramics is always 22ct and it is applied by mixing and heating. One of the earliest forms was honey and gold, ground together and painted onto the article. When fired at a low temperature the result was thick and rich and could be tooled. By the 1770’s mercury gilding was taking over which led to a much thinner, more delicate result.

Had there been an enthusiastic health and safety department operating in the 18th century they would have been very busy investigating unexplained deaths of kiln workers resulting from the poisonous nature of the mercury used in the gilding process.

The other tea service which upsets people with its lack of value is the late Victorian printed and painted service. These have all been owned by a “great great” relative and are often complete,8 because they were rarely used. The reason they are worth so little is that every home had one and now few homes want one

With the resurgence of the “cup-cake” and an ever growing interest in baking and decorating cakes, cups, saucers and tea services are making a little bit of a comeback. Perhaps now is the time to start buying them again.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Silver Teapots

As spring turns to summer, or tries to, my wife and I find ourselves dusting the cobwebs off the rucksack and planning a walk or two in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. We are very much fair weather walkers, a little like hibernating animals waking from winter sleeps.

This years first walk was an unambitious gentle few miles around the Chatsworth estate. I packed the rucksack. Fortunately it is cavernous as I felt we needed raincoats, extra woollens, a bottle of water, a plentiful packed lunch, a large flask of tea, a mat to lay the lunch on, sweets to chew, two hats and a folding stool ( the stool ties onto the rucksack as I prefer it to the mat).

Needless to say, being the strongest of the two of us by a short head, I carried the rucksack. I think I may have overdone it with provisions because after half a mile I was pretty desperate to stop for lunch. We drank all the liquids, ate all the lunch, put on the hats and after a short rest continued.

With a much lighter load I was able to enjoy the countryside and as my wife chatted gaily away I let my mind wander. I thought about the tea we had just drunk, the history of it and that marvellous vessel the teapot.

Tea was introduced to Europe from China with the expansion of trade in the 17th century and was a great novelty to people used to drinking only beer and posset. Although it was extremely
expensive, a pound of tea cost the equivalent to a year’s wage for a maid, it quickly became very popular. It was originally drunk after dinner and was usually prepared personally by the lady of the
house. Those who were buying tea also had the means to buy silver and by the end of the 18th century tea wares had become a major part of the silversmith’s trade.

The earliest teapots date from the late 17th century but very few of these exist today. They were designed along the lines of the imported Chinese porcelain teapots. The pear shape came into
being early in the 18th century and was the dominant style in Britain.

From the 1730’s the compressed globular or ‘bullet’ shape became more fashionable than the the pear shape. Some teapots were very richly decorated with bands of engraved or chased scrolls,
strapwork and flowers around the body and the edge of the lid. One interesting variation on the bullet shape was the fully spherical teapot on a high foot that was a speciality of Scottish

In the 1770’s the availability of rolled sheet silver in thin gauge meant that silversmiths could produce teapots at a much reduced price. As rolled silver was easier to mould and shape, the oval
and circular teapot shapes became popular in line with the rise of the Neo-classical style. However such teapots were not as robust as those made from heavier gauge metal and splitting is
sometimes evident around the spout which was made from seamed sheet metal instead of being cast.

The 19th century saw many further developments in teapot design, not least the electroplated model. The whole century is a separate subject. What a collectable item the silver teapot is.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website